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Goodbye Tokyo Rose

By James Bow.

Through the seventies and the eighties, Tokyo Rose was, arguably, the most famous of the Toronto Transit Commission's non-revenue equipment, and not just for its nickname. Prowling the lines just before the subway shut down, hunting for garbage, it was one of the more visible of the TTC's work cars. Arriving on the TTC after a major bout of subway expansion, it was used more often than the original garbage train, the converted Witt RT-4. Built by Nippon Sharyo in 1967, it was far easier to distinguish from the standard trains than the Gloucester and H-1 garbage trains which replaced it. Many railfans admit more than a passing affection for the little vehicle, which worked the system for thirty-three years before finally retiring to the scrap heap.

Tokyo Rose (numbered RT-10) was one of four vehicles purchased from Nippon Sharyo in the late 1960s. Its comrades included RT-11, a flat trailer delivered in 1967, RT-12, a battery-electric locomotive delivered in 1968 and RT-13, a crane car delivered in the same year. Of these, Tokyo Rose was the only one to receive a nickname, due to its duties and the nationality of its manufacturer. It was a single car, in unpainted aluminum silver-grey, looking similar to the Hawker-Siddeleys in the subway at the time. Despite these similarities with the Hawkers, it was very different, shorter, with two larger doors (the better to bring on board large loads of garbage) and distinctive round windows along the side. There was no rollsign, with the area above the front door taken up by large headlights.

I vaguely recall some time in the late 1970s when I accidentally boarded this train. I was coming home with my parents late one Saturday night and transferring from the Bloor line onto the University at St. George. I was too young to remember much, unfortunately, but I remember being struck by how there weren't any seats on this subway car. I remember that it was lit as well as a subway car, and I don't recall any stench of garbage. I didn't stay long.

Tokyo Rose continued to act as the garbage train until the early 1990s, when two pair of Gloucesters retired from revenue service were remade into two new garbage trains. The TTC wanted a garbage train for each line, so that it didn't take as long to service the entire system. Tokyo Rose would have been retired then, but I have heard that its hoist proved too useful, and too difficult to move to another vehicle. It was maintained for the remainder of the 1990s, renumbered RT-10a.

But the reprieve could not last forever. Late in 1999, the order came to retire the vehicle and it was moved into Davisville Yard alongside the retiring H2s. As of June 2000, it can still be seen from the Belt Line bridge.

Tokyo Rose Image Archive

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